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Tech Nation announces second cohort for Net Zero accelerator

The Net Zero programme from Tech Nation aims to help tech startups and scaleups realise their potential to reduce global emissions

Entrepreneurial network Tech Nation has announced the 32 climate technology startups that will be joining the second cohort of its government-backed Net Zero Growth accelerator programme.

The companies were chosen to join the six-month programme by a group of 40 judges – including climate specialists, investors and senior representatives of tech firms – based on their scalability and potential to help the UK reach its goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The startups are actively working to decarbonise a range of sectors, including seven in energy and electricity, six in transport, four in buildings and cities, and three in agriculture.

Three companies – Carbon Infinity, Supercritical and BxEarth – are focusing specifically on carbon removal technologies instead, with a further three developing and deploying space technology to help companies monitor various climate-related goals.

The Edinburgh-based Earth Blox, for example, is using satellite data to identify deforestation or mining activities, which will help companies act on their supply chains, while London-based Satellite Vu is similarly using a constellation of satellites to measure the thermal footprint of buildings every one to two hours, with the aim of improving energy efficiency.

Other sectors represented in the net zero cohort include finance, smart cities, biotech and life sciences, carbon calculation and washing, with just over a third of the firms focused on creating business-to-consumer (B2C) offerings.

Ripple Energy, a B2C company that allows customers to buy shares in wind farms, was one of the 158 high-growth startups the UK government has taken an equity stake in during the pandemic, as announced by the British Business Bank on 14 September 2021.

“Climate tech is playing an enormous role in reducing carbon emissions. Technology that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, either directly or indirectly, across all sectors of society is in hot demand,” said Gerard Grech, founder and CEO of Tech Nation. “But with 40% of emissions reductions reliant on technologies not yet at mass-market scale, there is huge potential still to be realised.

“With these companies needing to scale further and faster than any other technology has before to meet the demand, we are committed to doing all we can at Tech Nation to support and accelerate the growth of the UK’s climate tech scaleups.”

Every startup in the cohort will have access to long-term investment opportunities, education, talent and exposure to industry leaders.

The cohort announcement was also accompanied by new data from Tech Nation and Dealroom, which shows the UK currently has 519 net zero startups and scaleups – a 60% increase on the 323 climate tech companies it had in 2020.

This means Tech Nation’s Net Zero Growth programme will have supported 13% of the UK’s climate tech companies by the end of this second cohort.

Some 30 startups participated in last year’s inaugural Net Zero Growth cohort, including those building electric vehicle infrastructure and services (Elmo and Connected Kerb), creating vertical farms and animal-free dairy products (LettUs Grow and Better Dairy), measuring environmental footprints (Earthly and Ecologi), and improving manufacturing and recycling supply chains (Circulor).

“With Europe recording its highest ever temperature on record this summer, and the latest IPCC report published last month, there isn’t a more urgent time to take climate action. Every successful climate tech company is another step towards decarbonising the world,” said Sammy Fry, net zero lead at Tech Nation.

“I’m proud to say that in the run up to COP26, our pioneering Net Zero growth programme gives these revolutionary, high-impact scale-ups the access they need to investors, insights, education, networks and practical support, enabling the UK to lead our transition to a green economy as quickly as possible.”

Like last year, the programme is being supported by a partnership with banking giant BNP Paribas, as well as through a new partnership with accounting software firm Sage, whose former chief executive Stephen Kelly was appointed chair of Tech Nation in June 2020.

In March 2020, a group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) led by Rainforest Action Network published the Banking on climate change 2020 report, which found that 35 private sector banks have provided $2.7tn for fossil fuel projects in the four years since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2016.

“BNP Paribas was the biggest European fossil bank in 2019, despite its policy on unconventional oil and gas financing, and – along with Santander and CIBC – saw the biggest percentage increase in its fossil financing from 2018-2019,” it said, adding that this “shows how far the bank is from aligning with a stable climate”.

In response to the report, BNP Paribas said: “It is important to note that the group’s total financing to the oil and gas sector has remained stable since 2016, while our exposure to renewable energies has doubled over the same period.”

In May 2021, the Cabinet Office invited technology startups to develop digital and data-related climate solutions as part of its new Tech for Our Planet challenge programme, which is being run in partnership with government technology (GovTech) accelerator Public.

The challenges related to how technology can be used to drive more sustainable consumption within the home, how it can promote better land use and waste management practices on farms, how to better capture and share energy consumption data across the grid, and how it can boost community engagement so that more people can have their say on climate priorities and initiatives.

Two further challenges related to how tech can be used to make financial services greener, and to support aquatic ecosystem protection, including ecosystem recovery and preventing biodiversity loss.

Net Zero Growth cohort roundup

ACT Blade – Edinburgh, energy tech

ACT Blade’s vision is to produce the next generation of wind turbine blades for a net-zero future. The company is developing a lightweight and modular blade using sustainable and cost-effective processes and materials capable of delivering a step-change increase in energy production and reduction in costs.

Ambue – Oxford, proptech

Ambue gives people information and advice to use energy more efficiently in their homes. It does this by creating a unique digital twin of each home, which is used to analyse the energy use and automatically generate technical documents so that contractors can carry out the work. Users save energy and money, put less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and help combat global warming, according to Ambue.

Better Origin – Cambridge, agritech and foodtech

Better Origin develops and operates insect bioconversion solutions that allow farmers and food producers to turn food and agricultural wastes into valuable nutrients through insects. The company’s goal is to democratise access to insect farming so that any farmer can access insect waste repurposing possibilities, in turn helping to reduce the footprint of agriculture.

Bx Earth – London, agritech and foodtech

Bx Technologies fuses technology with nature to transform how it grows food. The company is breaking new ground to digitalise and change the way we produce food through software-as-a-service (SaaS) operational tools on farms and creating a market incentive to change practices. Two products tackle the supply and demand of independently verified, data backed, fully transparent carbon offsets and ecosystem service provision from food production – LOOOP and Earth Exchange.

Carbon Infinity – London, carbon removal and offsetting

Carbon Infinity is developing a cost-effective, modular technology called direct air capture (DAC), removing carbon dioxide directly from the air in the atmosphere. Advanced carbon-capture sorbent material and module design, combined with waste heat or renewable energy and water, can be used to form the building blocks of the industrial economy; whether non-petrochemicals, plastics, synthetic fuels for aviation or shipping, and atmospheric carbon-enriched products (concrete, carbon nanotubes). Carbon Infinity is initially focused on facilitating the de-fossilisation of hard-to-decarbonise sectors.

Catagen – Belfast, transport tech

Catagen is a clean air data company providing emissions testing services to the world’s leading car and motorcycle brands. It uses a proprietary toolset to help these brands meet or exceed global emissions standards. Using this knowledge and data, Catagen is developing PED, a new product which mines the unique data and uses models to create a software technology platform to inform individuals about their emissions footprint to create behaviour change.

Electric Assisted Vehicles (EAV) Limited – Oxford, transport tech

EAV is the leading provider of last-mile transport solutions specifically designed for evolving urban environments – making them zero-emission, low cost, reliable and future-proof.

EMSOL – London, transport tech

EMSOL deploys leading-edge air pollution monitoring in conjunction with state-of-the-art, real-time vehicle-tracking technology. By intelligently combining these datasets, EMSOL can, with “unparalleled accuracy levels’, identify the who, what, where and when of pollution. This allows EMSOL customers to evolve from passive to proactive in their climate ambitions and to achieve their net-zero goals.

Gardin – Oxford, agritech and foodtech

Gardin’s remote sensing technology aims to empower food producers by monitoring and delivering insights on plant health versus the growth environment to reduce waste and make growing food more sustainable. Gardin’s full-stack solution is engineered to measure plant crop physiological traits such as photosynthetic activity, biotic and abiotic stress and nutritional density. It will also drive correlations between the physiology of the plants/crops and the growth environment so producers can make meaningful interventions exactly when needed.

Magway – London, supply chain and transport tech

Magway is an all-electric, zero-emissions, low-footprint, high-capacity delivery system. It has the capacity to take up to 90% of online delivery vehicles off our roads, drastically reducing congestion, pollution and the carbon footprint of shopping online. Magway can deliver the equivalent of 20,000 40ft container loads through each 1m diameter pipe per week. – Reading, energy tech’s platform aims to eliminate all wasted energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from buildings, automatically and without any extra burden to occupants. The m.e platform focuses on Small Power, sometimes known as Plug Load power, which can account for up to 40% of a commercial buildings’ energy consumption and has no useful management system. The platform is designed to fit into this management gap, reducing total energy costs and GHG emissions by up to 50%, providing around a four-year payback, and boosting occupant sustainability behaviour.

Miralis Data – Lancaster, transport tech

Miralis Data develops products that support the transition to zero-carbon vehicles and make companies more productive and efficient through better use of their vehicle fleets and the goods that travel on them. Miralis’ main product is Fuuse, an electric vehicle charge point management platform that enables organisations to deliver more for their drivers, minimise operational costs and create new revenues.

Oxwash – Oxford, wash tech

Oxwash offers sustainable, on-demand laundry and dry cleaning services to both B2B and B2C market segments. Oxwash is a tech company at heart, with an in-house team of developers building a scalable solution to power the international laundry revolution.

Paua Tech – London, transport tech

Paua makes public electric vehicle charging a simple experience with a mobile app for drivers to find, charge and pay for charging through aggregating chargepoint providers and drivers. Businesses are supported with a centralised billing function and a fleet managers dashboard.

PowerMarket – Oxford, energy tech

PowerMarket is digitalising and consolidating the entire life-cycle for enterprise solar assets, saving customers over 90% of their time and resources by providing an alternative solution to the current management, which is “riddled” with long, expensive, fragmented and manually driven processes and software tools.

Qualis Flow – London, proptech

Qflow enables developers and construction teams to better manage their materials and waste. Using a unique combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning, Qflow automates the digitisation of material tickets and waste transfer notes as they enter construction sites, independent of supply chain systems. Qflow provides direct access to critical information on site, ensuring quality and safety of products.

Earth Blox – Edinburgh, environmental monitoring

Earth Blox is a code-free, cloud-based, Lego-like SaaS that allows up-skilling of global teams in planetary scale satellite intelligence. Users can DIY their own Earth observation solutions using Earth Blox’s modular blocks to rapidly identify illegal activities like deforestation and mining, monitor a supply chain, manage post-disaster recovery and support nature-based solutions. Earth Blox enables anyone, anywhere, to customise their own satellite intelligence to suit their needs.

Ripple – London, energy tech

Ripple enables people and businesses to part-own large scale wind farms and have the low cost, green electricity they produce supplied to them via the grid through utility partners. Ripple is the UK’s first clean energy ownership platform, making fractional wind farm ownership and supply simple and affordable. The mission is to make clean energy ownership affordable and accessible to everyone.

Satellite Vu – London, proptech

Satellite Vu will monitor the temperature of any structure on the planet in near real-time to determine valuable insights into economic activity, energy efficiency and carbon footprint. The high-resolution infrared dataset will enable better business decisions and accelerate our journey to net zero. Satellite Vu says it brings a new category of satellite data to solve our global challenges.

Solar Polar – Peterborough, energy tech

Solar Polar has developed solar cooling that delivers the cheapest Watt of cooling. The system is designed to be manufactured in the developing world and provides cooling for refrigeration and air-conditioning without any electricity or gas, using only natural refrigerants.

Solivus – Westerham, energy tech

Solivus’ mission is to enable mega-buildings, homes and communities to lower their carbon footprint and generate their own local green energy through a suite of solar solutions. The company uses new organic thin-film solar technology to design products that are opening up vast new markets previously unavailable to traditional solar, both in the UK and internationally. Solivus says it makes a positive difference by creating truly sustainable, clean energy products, made using the latest innovations in renewable energy. One of Solivus’ solar fabrics, which is manufactured by Heliatek, won the 2020 Innovation Award at the World Energy Summit.

Sourceful – Manchester, supply chain

Sourceful is an end-to-end sourcing and supply chain platform focused on sustainability. With Sourceful, businesses can source, configure and design sustainable packaging from a network of vetted suppliers and automate their inventory replenishment. They can also leverage Sourceful’s proprietary life cycle assessment tool to understand the impact of product decisions in real-time and offset their carbon footprint to achieve net zero.

Sphera – Durham, proptech

Sphera is an award-winning speciality materials start-up focusing on low carbon, next-generation construction material alternatives for the race to Net Zero. Their products include the world’s first carbon zero and carbon negative concrete blocks, and admixtures to accelerate concrete curing rate and decrease cement content. These innovations, it says, help to simultaneously tackle climate change and plastic pollution.

Spherics Technology – Bristol, carbon calculation

Spherics is a cloud-based platform to help businesses measure, mitigate and manage their climate impact. The system integrates with established software packages and tracks and visualises the client’s carbon footprint in near real-time. It then makes custom suggestions on how to reduce the impact by matching company data trends with climate science research, to offset any unavoidable carbon emissions.

Sunswap – London, transport tech

Sunswap is developing hardware and software to accelerate the decarbonisation of transport refrigeration. Sunswap’s battery- and solar-powered transport refrigeration unit (TRU) replaces dirty and loosely regulated diesel incumbents currently used by supermarkets and other refrigerated fleet operators.

Supercritical – London, carbon removal and offsetting

Supercritical help businesses get to net zero by measuring their carbon footprint and selling them high quality carbon removal offsets.

Sylvera – London, carbon Removals and Offsetting

Sylvera considers itself the equivalent of Moody’s credit ratings for carbon offsets. The company uses machine learning and satellite data to rate nature based offset projects. The market reference data produced is being adopted by the biggest buyers, traders and exchanges.

The Tyre Collective – London, transport tech

The Tyre Collective is a cleantech company building innovative solutions to save our air from tyre wear. Tyre wear is the second-largest microplastic pollutant in our oceans and a stealthy source of air PM pollution. The company is spearheading the capture and monitoring of tyre wear, accelerating the shift towards zero-emission mobility.

Tred – Leeds, fintech

Tred is a consumer fintech whose mission is to make money work for people and the planet. Its first product is the UK’s first green debit card that lets users track, reduce and offset their carbon footprint as they spend, and plants trees with profits. The company will soon be launching more products, like green investing and a sustainable marketplace, to help people turn more of their money green.

Unicorn Biotechnologies – Cambridge, biotech and life sciences

Unicorn Biotechnologies is developing a fully automated manufacturing platform to enable cellular agriculture producers to seamlessly scale products from the lab bench to supermarket shelves. The full stack platform combines hardware, software and analytics to completely automate cellular agriculture manufacturing, reducing costs and increasing product quality. By providing a clear path to take cellular agriculture products to industrial scales, the company aims to drive the transition to animal free agriculture.

Xampla – Cambridge, biotech and life sciences

Xampla makes a replacement for specific microplastics and single use film packaging, targeting three launch applications with a patented, next generation material: plant protein. Xampla aims to become one of a handful of biobased majors by 2040, supplying plant-protein and other related materials to the major plastics customers.

ZUoS – Edinburgh, energy tech

ZUoS is an energy services platform to plan and operate a decarbonised energy system. ZUoS provides the ability to predict, schedule and control flexible demand at the local level in homes and businesses. By focusing locally, ZUos provides visibility and control enabling more renewables, low carbon heating and EV charging to be installed within each community.

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